Internet and telephone services collapse in several French cities; attackers intentionally cut fibre optic cables

On Wednesday morning, telephone and Internet systems in several French cities began to fail or work slowly after some fibre optic cables were cut in what appears to be an attack on telecommunication systems in France. The incident appears to have mainly affected customers of Free, Bouygues Telecom and SFR.

The outages focused on so-called “backbones”, which carry large amounts of data between different regions and usually stretch along highways or each country’s rail system.

In a message published this morning, the Internet and telephony service provider Free reports that the interruptions occurred due to what they described as “multiple malicious acts”, detected during the early hours of this Wednesday.

Free, which appears to be the hardest-hit company, added that the number of blackouts and the context of the incident suggest there is a malicious campaign behind the outages.

Other operators such as Bouygues Telecom and Orange do not appear to have been affected by this incident, although some of their customers in regions such as Grenoble, Strasbourg and Reims claim to have experienced some failures.

At the moment this malicious activity has not been attributed to any specific hacking group, although cybersecurity specialists point out that this is an unprecedented attack method: “This is the first time this has happened and we do not know who is behind it,” says a report by Associated Press France.

Affected operators report that their security teams are working to the fullest to correct these problems. Other affected firms, including cloud services and advisory groups, have also been affected, although the extent of these incidents is unknown.

A representative from data center firm Telehouse said, “This is a bit like highways are blocked and you need to redirect all traffic to other roads; we experienced small interruptions but the Internet is still working.”

To learn more about information security risks, malware variants, vulnerabilities and information technologies, feel free to access the International Institute of Cyber Security (IICS) websites.